Life insurance -- financial protection you buy against your death -- may not read like the liveliest of industries on paper. But a life insurance startup that believes it can turn that stigma around, by infusing the concept with gamification and a push toward wellness and health -- and change the life insurance industry in the process -- is today announcing significant funding, a sign of the traction it's getting for its big ideas.
YuLife, a London startup that has built a new kind of life insurance concept -- it incentivizes and rewards users to focus on their physical and mental health through a gamified interface -- has raised $70 million in what is, to date, one of the largest Series Bs raised by an insurtech startup in Europe.
Led by Target Global, the round also included Eurazeo, Latitude and previous backers Creandum, Notion Capital, Anthemis, MMC Ventures, and OurCrowd. Sammy Rubin, YuLife's CEO and founder, confirmed that the round values YuLife at $346 million (£250 million).
The company will be using the funding to continue expanding its business, build more products on its platform, and importantly continue to invest in the technology that it uses to run its service and determine how its policies should run.
"Our insurance is about helping people live healthier and longer lives," Rubin said in an interview. "If we can help to reduce claims while incentivizing people to do that, it's a win-win." But it's about more than that, he added. "We are building a new type of risk model where we are able to create new actuarial tables, which have not been updated in 200 years. Actually, I think smoker rates and how they've changed was the last update. So, most will just look at your age and whether you are a smoker and that’s it."
YuLife is currently active only in the U.K. and is only sold directly to organizations, who in turn provide it to their employees. That business currently -- which also includes income protection and critical illness cover -- provides $15 billion of coverage and has seen 10x growth in the last year -- a bumper one for life insurance policies, possibly for the worst reasons (hello, pandemic; goodbye, predicting what the future might look like). Customers include Capital One, Co-op, Curve, Havas Media, Severn Trent and Sodexo.
That $15 billion is just a drop in the bucket in an industry that is currently estimated to be worth some $2.2 trillion.
The company got its start on the back of a persistent problem that Rubin experienced at his previous insurance startup PruProtect (which is now called Vitality Life).
"Usually insurance benefits just sit on a shelf and never get used," he said. YuLife set out to change that by making the policy "all about engagement."
The app -- built by veterans of the gaming industry -- is designed around the concept of different environments, currently covering forest, ocean, desert and mountains, which YuLife collectively terms its "Yuniverse." (This incidentally also became a template for the company's HQ design in London.)
Within each of these environments, users are encouraged to walk, cycle, meditate and do other activities to get around their environments in a healthy way, while at the same time being able to compare their progress against other co-workers. There is a degree of personalization in everyone's experience, in that one person leaning into one activity over another seems to produce different subsequent scenarios.
Along with this, users are offered discounts on third-party products to further engage with the game within YuLife, which could include a subscription to meditation app Calm, FitBit and Garmin devices, and more.
As users make their way through their worlds, they get rewards, in the form of something called YuCoins. The YuCoins can in turn be used to redeem vouchers from the likes of Amazon and Asos to buy things … consumerism being another way to improve happiness for some of us.
All of this sums up as more than just a policy aimed at giving people peace of mind for their families should they depart this world.
"Long term, it's not just about health, it’s about lifestyle," Rubin said.
It's also about YuLife's business: The various products that it offers are built around an affiliate model, so there is a business interest for the company around offering and seeing items purchased and redeemed. However, this is not essential to using the app as a policy holder.
The win-win theme runs strong, but so too does the fact that YuLife is taking a different approach altogether, in an industry where most of the "disruption" has up to now been more about how to buy life insurance, rather than reassessing what life insurance actually is. For others in the space doing just that, see DeadHappy, BIMA, and the Jay-Z-backed Ethos. That being said, it's also not the only one tackling "lifestyle" as part of life insurance: Sproutt is another rethinking that area as well.
“YuLife is redefining life insurance, using the most innovative technologies to transform a largely traditional industry,” said Ben Kaminski, partner, Target Global, in a statement. “With health and well-being increasingly thrust into the limelight in the wake of COVID-19, YuLife is fundamentally changing insurance by incentivizing people to lead healthier lifestyles. YuLife is ideally positioned to build on its tenfold growth during the pandemic and lead the way in helping its clients respond to the challenges posed by an ever-changing working environment. We are very proud to partner with YuLife on its journey of becoming a global leader in life insurance.”